Today I finished work a little early and thought I would stop at the Emirates Identity Authority center to check things out. I figured that if the line wasn't too long, I could make an appointment or get a stamp or do whatever it was that some people yesterday had done to get in the gate when everyone else was shut out. As I drove by, I didn't see the long line that was there Saturday morning so I parked my car and went inside.
I got to the reception desk and there were two older gentlemen there having a conversation and seeming to not care that I was standing there waiting. After about 5 more people were behind me (i.e. crowding around the counter pushing to be the first one waited on), the gentlemen casually finished their conversation and politely asked if they could help me. It seems that it's not possible to make an appointment, but we could hand in the paperwork today. Because they need to take a photo and fingerprints, my wife needed to be there to hand in her paperwork. I called her and told her to get over to the center by taxi and took a number, supposedly the last number given out today. That was at 4:30. Because the center is open until 8:30, I was wondering why they stopped giving numbers.
I had number 45 and I could see by the number board that they were helping 41. Normally, I would've been worried that they were going to call my number before my wife got there. However, I remembered where I was and casually waited for 40 minutes until my wife arrived, leaving a good 10 minutes to spare before they called my number.
We sat down in a little office and handed in out pre-printed, pre-filled application forms with barcode on them. Even though the kids won't be getting I.D. cards, we need to register them and provide photos taken at a photo studio. We don't need the kids to be there, so I can just hand in their paperwork when I go to pick up our cards. I'm still not entirely certain why the woman couldn't just use the camera that she used to my wife's and my photos, but there you go. When I asked if we could just register our kids today, she told us that they were done doing the paperwork for children today. Oh, of course!
After getting a very thorough fingerprinting (all fingers on both hands, palm prints and side of hand), we were out of there, a mere 35 minutes from the time our number was called. As we were leaving, there were still a lot of people waiting, so if I was the last one to get a number, they may have been there to pick up I.D. cards or something. Considering that everyone over the age of 15 in the UAE needs an I.D. and how slow the process is, the agency is either going to have to change something or it won't get done.
For those of you in living in the Abu Dhabi faced with the prospect of getting your I.D. my advice is this: ignore what the nice people at the call center say about going there on a Saturday. Go there shortly after the time they open for the afternoon on a weekday: between 2:30 and 4:00. Bring something to do. If you have kids, get photos taken at a studio and say it's for the Emirates I.D. Hopefully they'll understand the specifications because the pictures have to be a certain size and have a certain color background.
For those of you who are privacy advocates against the use of fingerprinting being used on I.D. cards all I can say is that unlike Japan, they're not just making foreigners do this. Everyone is required to do it, including Emiratis. The things that you'll need a national I.D. for is increasing including register a car, a big one for the locals. I do have to say that I got a bit of a kick out of seeing a few Emiratis pitching a fit after being denied a number so they could register after I had just been given one. When there is another Emirati behind the counter giving the numbers, there's not much they can do, though.